Monthly Archives: July 2010

Happy 11th Birthday to…


Today Laurel turned 11. We celebrated with German chocolate cake. Laurel also requested fried okra, but I ran out of time. Sorry, Laurel. May your year be filled with accomplishment and happiness, not necessarily in that order of importance.

cake gift time blurry pic

We’re awfully proud of you, and we hope you’re still a little bit proud of us. Happy birthday, kiddo. We love you.


I like going through the archived photos each year around the kids’ birthdays to see how they have changed. Laurel hasn’t changed a whole lot physically (other than growing tallllllllllllllllllllllller), but oh, how she’s grown in other ways.

July 2009:


August 2009:

Laurel's first day as a fifth grader

September 2009:

Before Departure

October 2009:

Laurel's Pumpkin

November 2009:

Jacked-up teeth before

December 2009:

Don't let her have scissors


January 2010:

On the way

February 2010:

Laurel eluded photographic capture.

March 2010:

Caught in the act

April 2010:


May 2010:

blue ribbon

June 2010:

At Wright Brothers

July 2010:

watching the storm roll in

Things Have Gotten a Little Out of Hand.

Or maybe I just got a little out of control.

Anyway, this is the garden harvest from the past couple of days…with the exception of the quart of beans and several pieces of okra that are already in the fridge:


I’ve had to start picking the tomatoes a little green, thanks to the squirrels, and you can see I’ve got some pickling cukes on steroids over there to the right. Those jerks are stealthy and hide behind their leaves, injecting themselves with cucumber growth hormone all day. I know this because I swear those guys weren’t even there yesterday.  Dunno what I’ll do with those. Soup, maybe?

This also doesn’t show the cantaloupe I pulled today.

Maybe next year I’ll scale back a little.

Maybe not.

On Church Signs.

We don’t attend church, but the signs sure are fun.

Today we were driving home and our conversation went something like this:

Me: “Now that was a really good church sign.”

Laurel: “What did it say?”

Me: “It said, ‘Remember the little things. Someday when you look back they may be the big things.’”

Laurel: “Hmm. That’s smart.”

Ethan: “Yep! K-Mart Smart!”

Think we might be taking TV a bit too seriously around here?


Also, it seems I neglected posting this photo here – so here is a sign from another church just down the road from us.

church sign

That satin’s a son of a bitch.

The Most Rockingest Camping Weekend Ever.

Okay, I don’t even know how to begin telling you about all the things that went wrong on our weekend camping trip. Numbered list form sounds good:

  1. I left the refrigerator door ajar while packing. Nobody caught it. That meant for 3.5 hours the eggs, the hamburger meat we’d planned to have for supper, the chicken salad I’d fixed for Saturday, the sausage, the milk, AND the cheese were exposed to temperatures approaching or exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, the container of watermelon that Greg had cut just before leaving was lying not on the shelf in the refrigerator where I had placed it, but on the floor, with spillage. Significant spillage. If this has never happened to you, trust me when I tell you that as watermelon juice dries, it becomes very, very sticky. And did I mention the roads on the way to the campground were very windy? Oh yes, lots of good curves. Lots of opportunity for the watermelon to go skating on the linoleum.
  2. When we got to the campground (but before discovering the spillage) Greg got to haul that big ol’ camper twice around the very uneven, unmarked, fairly tight dirt roads that were not drawn even close to scale on the campground map, looking for our site.
  3. When we did find our site, thanks to help from a staff member, we realized the Big Honking Fifth-Wheel Next Door was encroaching on about half of it. The owners of the Big Honking Fifth-Wheel were, of course, absent.
  4. We were able to back the trailer in, but thanks to said encroachment, our power cord wouldn’t reach our pedestal. This led to staff members golf-carting back and forth like Keystone Kops for a good twenty minutes, though my sense of time may be off – I was inside the trailer.
  5. Cleaning up the watermelon.
  6. The owners of the Big Honking Fifth-Wheel Next Door arrived from the river and offered to let us borrow their 30-amp extension cord so they wouldn’t have to move. I understand an extension cord has been on Greg’s Short List of Things to Buy. It is now on the Very Short List of Things to Buy.
  7. When the owner of the Big Honking Fifth-Wheel Next Door, in offering to help us set up, attempted to plug our camper in via the extension cord, he got a shock. The campground owner went to get supplies to ground the pedestal…during which time we still did not have power, and therefore, still had no air-conditioning. Me? I was still inside cleaning up.
  8. We had the good fortune of going to the grocery store to replace everything I’d lost. Grocery stores in Van Buren, Missouri are small and are stocked in accordance with their size. By this time we had decided we needed not one, but two packages of cookies. Cookies, you may remember from number 1, were not on our original inventory. THEY WERE NOW.
  9. Upon returning to the camper, I pulled a 6-pack of bottled beer from the fridge and the bottom of the carton fell out. So did the bottles of beer – on my feet. Only one bottle broke. See #5. Replace the word “watermelon” with the phrase “beer and shards of glass, including some but not all of the shards in my feet.”
  10. The next morning, Laurel stepped out of the camper to greet the day. As she was returning, she touched the door handle and was shocked. Oh good, electrical current running through the camper. Greg estimated it at about 40 V. “From experience,” he estimates this. Nice. Fed up, I hopped in the truck even before brushing my teeth (yum!) but after drinking coffee (even more yum!) and went to complain soundly to the lady in the office. There are few things I hate worse than being shocked, and I was not about to run the risk of it happening again. 
  11. The owners offered to move us from a water/electric site to a full hook-up site. The only one available, naturally, was right next to the office. The office, folks, is where all the traffic goes by. Do you know what kind of traffic you have at a campground set squarely on the Current River? Drunk traffic, that’s what kind. But what were we to do? We loaded up, packed up, and moved.
  12. Immediately upon hookup at the new site, we had sewer gas backing up into our trailer. No p-trap, yay! Our very own air-rottener. Greg fashioned a p-trap with our sewer hose and it helped eventually, but we were driven from the confines of our camper for awhile.
  13. That same day we went on our float. Within approximately 10 minutes of pushing off, we capsized and lost all our beer, all the kids’ drinks, and some of the floatation. We paddled faster and caught up with a couple of beers and a couple of the kids’ drinks, so all was not lost.

Go figure. 13 things went awry. That’s nearly enough to make one superstitious, right?

Don’t worry (you were worrying, right? No? Well fine, then). Not all was bad. On to the good things:

  1. The owners felt truly awful about all our troubles, so they gave us a) an upgrade to the kids’ wristbands so they could play all the mini-golf they liked; b) gem mining bags for the kids; c) 2 free nights at the campground, and d) a dozen free-range eggs.
  2. Laurel got to play Scrabble with the owners’ son, who is in college this year and is so into Scrabble he prints out lists of words to study. Also playing was the owner’s sister, who told the son he’d finally met his match in Laurel.
  3. We were right next to the office, yes, with the drunk traffic, yes, but that was also where all the action happened for the kids. Laurel and Ethan got to participate in games including the sundae relay at 10 a.m. They also got to go to the playground whenever they liked, pan for gems, and go on “hey-rides.”
  4. Being next to the office like that meant we had the best people-watching available in the campground. We sat out in our chairs and watched people for quite some time.
  5. The other people on the river the day we floated were tame, so the kids weren’t exposed to the worst of humanity (though I had fully prepared them to see men peeing off boats and tubes). I taught both of them how to steer a canoe.
  6. We went to the local burger and ice cream shack, where we inhaled loose meat burgers, fries, and vanilla shakes.
  7. We ate both bags of cookies. Almost. We finished them the night we got home.
  8. The weather. It was hot, but it was perfect. It really was…until we were on our way back and we drove into a line of very windy thunderstorms that made pulling the trailer interesting, to say the least.

So there you have it. Yes, maybe there were only 8 good things compared to the 13 bad, but you know…those 8 in the aggregate ended up being a whole lot bigger than the 13.

After all, nobody ever says, “Hey, remember that time we had that perfect vacation?” Stories like these are the kind that get cemented in the memory and told for years to come.

A couple of photos:

gem mining medal winners, taken with a fogged-up lens

Sorry. We were too busy dodging mishaps (not very well, I might add) to take many photos. We might have more later when we have the waterproof throw-away camera developed.

Oh, and By The Way, We Really Did Celebrate Independence Day.

No, really. We did. What, just because I didn’t WRITE something about it all of a sudden we’re not patriots?

This year we were actually more patriotic than most…depending on the definition. We actually attended the VP Parade on July 3rd. See? Here’s proof! In no particular order except that which is stored in my machine’s folders…and you know the drill: Scroll over for the caption.

And so it begins Army band from Springfield MO big snake Croc or gator, I don't know - I used to know the difference  Cap'n Hook with Peter Pan and....Uncle Sam Cowardly Lion Cowboy float Curious George float Doesn't Laurel look like she's having a great time Dragon Bigger dragonEthan watched this guy go alllll the way down the street He let Ethan pet his 'horse.' I don't know where they come up with this stuff Liberty Bell Little Mermaid Louie the Lightning Bug Meet Me in St. Louis float Mounted Prophets Not so different from Marshfield after all Of course Scarecrow and Tin Man So...which one is Kit Bond, the gal or the dog The 'Ecology Brigade' Uncle Sam Underdog! What a character Wizard of Id We picked this stuff out of our hair, clothes, shoes, and bags all day

Okay, that last one? Those were paper punches they were spraying. Seriously, I’m almost positive there are still paper punches in my purse. There may still be some in my hair. What is this, the 11th? Oh, no, I’ve washed since then.

So then the next day we had our usual Take-Full-Advantage-of-Blowing-Things-Up-Because-It’s-Jefferson-County-and-What-Other-Advantage-Have-We-Got festival.

 black snakes more smoke bombssmoke bombtrying to catch a parachutejoy in 4-year-old form  more my view seriously, more   And yes, we still have some left

Well. It really doesn’t get much better. Happy belated Independence Day, everyone.

Lest I Forget…

So tonight, on a whim, Greg and I went to Roller Derby. I used to watch Roller Derby every Sunday night when it was on while I was growing up. And this is what transpired:


Michelle:  Ooooh, looky at those cheerleaders. I wonder what it takes to be one of those cheerleaders?

Greg:  Well…I don’t think they set the bar very high.

Michelle: Dare me to go down there and pick up some pom-poms?

Greg: Uh, no.

Michelle: Ready?! O.K.! [pose]


Bartender 1:  [unintelligible, but shouting from across the bar, then] You weren’t here doing your job!!

Bartender 2: Oh, yeah?! Well, I’m here now, so what do you want? Huh? What????!!!!

Greg:  Um, ahem, did you say you were going to give me back my credit card now?

Bartender 2: Oh. Yeah. Sorry.

Michelle, to Bartender 2: You should totally kick that guy’s ass.


Greg:  Oh, man…this is boy roller derby. What’s up with that?

Michelle: Why do you think I brought you here? heh.

Greg:  I want to watch girls beat each other up. If I wanted to watch boys beat each other up, I’d have stayed at the bar.


Greg:  Oh look, now it’s girl roller derby!

Michelle: You know, I think I’m kind of built for roller derby.

Greg:  I think you’re built better than most girls for roller derby.

Michelle: [the look] Most girls, huh?

Greg:  I mean, you know what I mean. That came out wrong.



Was all this worth the $20 and several rounds of circle-the-parking-lot-for-a-space?


You betcha.

The Great East Coast Adventure, Day Sixteen, the Last.

ARNOLD, MO – The family awoke in Kentucky at 6 a.m. raring to go. Remember, they had packed up everything possible the night before.

After hitching up, our travelers made a brief visit to the dump station.

“Hehehe,” Michelle snickered. “’Brief?’ Hey reporter, Greg’s giving you the stink-eye!”

It’s true, he was, for as it was Greg’s solemn vow to handle the dumping of the black tanks, it was Greg who had the pleasure of dealing with the clog. Yes, the clog.

“Yeah, so uh, after he wrassled around with the sewage hose and all for about 40 minutes, we actually left the campground at 7:30,” said Michelle.

Nevertheless, the family made it home before lunch. Sort of.

Michelle reports, “I was running out of snacks for Ethan. Let’s just leave it at that,”

Once home, after wearily dragging themselves inside, Greg looked out back and said, “Uh, Michelle, have you seen your garden?”

Now, mind you, Michelle has been worried about the fate of her garden during her absence.

“Yeah,” Greg said, “I think she’s mentioned that to me every single day of the trip. No, really. Every single day.”

“We put a LOT of work into that garden this year,” Michelle protested, “so in my defense, I think my concern was justified. Besides, I’m convinced our neighbor has been planting Johnson grass in there during previous vacations. Aside from that, between the work for the raised beds, the detailed garden journal, the extra care to plan everything out…if I lost that garden, why, it’d spell disaster for me. Failure. So when Greg asked if I’d seen the garden, I didn’t know if it was good or bad.”

So, panic-stricken, she looked.

And, after a little cleaning up, supporting of the tomatoes, collecting the ripened tomatoes, etc., here is what Michelle saw:


“We are all grateful for that, I assure you,” observed Greg. “If she had seen what she’s seen in previous years, we’d have all had hell to pay.”

And now, a note:

Thanks to everyone who looked after our place for us while we were gone. It’s so nice to come home to a place that doesn’t require a ridiculous amount of work just to make it habitable again.

Total trip mileage: 3,035.0
MPG: 12.92

The Great East Coast Adventure, Days Fourteen and Fifteen.

KENTUCKY – The Family arrived the evening of Day Thirteen at Grayson Lake State Park in Kentucky.

“Nothing much to say about it,” observed Michelle, “except this: why is it that Virginia and Kentucky don’t allow the public use or display of alcohol, when they are well known for their cigarettes and bourbon?”

Good question.

On Day Fourteen they awoke and promptly went to the nearest Shoney’s for breakfast. Yes, our chain-avoiding family has a weakness for Shoney’s.

“What can we say?” asked Greg, “We like the breakfast bar every few months. It’s a matter of nostalgia for both of us.”

So they pigged out accordingly and drove the rest of the day, arriving at Nolin Lake State Park near Mammoth Cave that evening.

“Still in Kentucky,” observed Greg. “Still no public use or display of alcohol. But we have lots of red cups.”

No Public Use or Display of Alcohol in KY State Parks

Shh. Don’t tell anyone.

The Family ended up here out of a desire to see Mammoth Cave National Park. On Day Fifteen, they did precisely that.

“Okay, so first we go up to the Visitor Center and it’s under construction, so if you wanted to see exhibits and history and such (which we did, that’s how we roll), you were shit out of luck,” said Michelle.

“And then before we could go on a cave tour we had to soak our shoes to avoid tracking white nose syndrome around in the cave because OF COURSE we have been in a cave within the last five years, we’re from MISSOURI,” added Greg.

Then Michelle commented, “Yes, so we sat there with our feet in plastic containers full of Lysol solution feeling the way it feels when a cop pulls you over and you’re sitting there, embarrassed, while everyone drives by gawking.”

“Oh, you know that feeling well, do you?” inquired Greg.

“Heh. Not nearly as well as you do,” retorted Michelle. Then she continued, “What was surprising to me was that more people weren’t doing it. Surely of the hundred or so people on our tour, there were more than about eight who’d been in a cave in the last five years. Huh. Guess the rules don’t apply to them,”

Our Family, however, is fond of bats, so they happily soaked their  shoes.

Mammoth Cave Sign climbing climbingAbout the most exciting it got

So how was it?

“Well…” Michelle hesitated. “Listen, the guides were very nice, and all…”

“Yeah, but we were pretty disappointed,” Greg said. “Outside of the sheer magnitude of Mammoth Cave, there were hardly any cool formations. The best part of the trip was probably the ferry across the Green River.”

Approaching the Green River Ferry

Dejected, the Family returned to camp.

“You know, if you’d never seen a cave before, you’d be really impressed,” said Michelle. In fact, that evening at the campground she told another family just that – they were from Detroit and sure enough, had never seen a cave. “Oh, then you’ll probably have a fantastic time,” Michelle assured them. “It’s just that, well, the ocean is a big deal but if you lived by the ocean, it wouldn’t be. Y’know? That’s how most caves are to Missourians.”

“I felt kind of guilty for not viewing Mammoth Cave as the treasured resource it is rumored to be,” Michelle said.

Fortunately, they didn’t feel like spoiled asses for long.

“Another family in the campground asked us how we liked it. We hesitated, but went ahead and expressed our disappointment. Go figure, they said they, too, were let down.”

After that disappointment, Michelle and Greg were eager to get home. At an impromptu Family meeting, Parents floated the possibility of leaving that afternoon. Naturally, the Kids protested. After much deliberation (decisions do not come easily to These People), they decided  they might as well just go ahead and stay. The Kids were desperate to swim, so the Parents reluctantly obliged.

“Yeah, I got in that lake and after the second crawdad skittered across my foot – and the first one pinched me, mind you – I’d had enough,” Michelle said.

So she sat on the bank and read a book while Greg and the kids frolicked in the lake.

“Frolicked, my ass,” Greg grumbled. “I was ready to leave as soon as we got here.”


Even so, after pulling the kids out of the lake and eating dinner, they made the best of it.

And for the Family, that can mean only one thing. Ice cream!


sharing salve Finishing Mom's cone Chesse pizza, anyone

“The funniest thing to happen there, aside from the proprietor’s inability to spell ‘cheese,’ was the telephone call she made just after the ambulance went by with lights and sirens.”

That conversation went something like this:

Proprietor: Where’s the ambulance goin’?


Proprietor: Still breathin’?


Proprietor: Okay. See you later.

Greg and Michelle exchanged a knowing look (they do this a lot, by the way). They know how small towns operate. They knew they’d soon have the entire story without needing to ask. Sure enough, the proprietor – who, by the way, was VERY nice – couldn’t resist filling them in.

“My husband’s the fire chief,” she said. “A person with a kidney transplant was found unconscious, but still breathing.”

The Family finished their cones (mostly – Ethan finished Michelle’s) and made their merry way back to camp, where they packed up every single little thing they could in order to effect a hasty exit the next day.

“We’re ready for home,” Michelle said. “We’re just ready.”

The Great East Coast Adventure, Days Twelve and Thirteen.

VIRGINIA, THROUGH WEST VIRGINIA and into KENTUCKY – Not much to report these days. Before leaving Chippokes, Michelle and the kids went to a nearby farm and picked blueberries and corn to take with them while Greg got the camper ready to pull out.

Then they drove. A lot.

But that evening they ate steak! And corn! And had a nice campsite!

“Yes…” Greg said, “And right after we arrived at that nice campsite, along came a park naturalist with a stuffed owl, who was advertising their programs to Laurel…”

“…and we felt sorry for her,” Michelle continued, “the naturalist, not Laurel — because she really didn’t know what she was walking into here.”

See, Laurel knows about owls. The kid knows a lot about owls. You could say she’s just a LITTLE obsessed with birds of prey in general. So as the naturalist quizzed Laurel, the naturalist herself learned a lot. Really. A lot.

“But the coolest thing about her,” Michelle noted later, “was that she was OPEN to learning a lot. She said several times that she was learning so much from Laurel that Laurel should come give the program. And you know what else? When she didn’t know the answer to something, she ADMITTED IT, which is more than most people are willing to do. That was awesome.”

That evening, Michelle put the kids to work shucking the corn…willingly.

“Yeah, that’s a little ambiguous,” Michelle critiqued. “Make a note that Michelle is always willing to put the kids to work. What you mean is that the kids were willing to shuck corn.”

Meanwhile, Greg cooked up the steaks and they had a very nice meal. The flies weren’t even too bad.

“For once,” Greg grumbled.

Camp at Douthat State Park, VA Sentenced to hard labor Steak night!

Day Thirteen involved more driving. Lots more driving. That is, in fact, pretty much all the Family did. Just after entering West Virginia, they stopped to eat leftovers from B’s Barbecue back in North Carolina.

Not nearly so diligent about capturing state welcome signs as last year West Virginia Leftovers for lunch in a tin can on a parking lot with Ethan's underwear

“It’s far more tolerable to eat in a tin can in a parking lot at 75 degrees than it is at 95 degrees,” Michelle observed. “Of course, it helps when the food is so good.”

After lunch the Family resignedly drove back to the interstate. But wait! The monotony was about to be broken!

One mile east of the St. Alban’s exit on I-64, the Family was driving along when all of a sudden…


Note: Sorry, readers, we don’t have audio here. Imagine the sound of a rock being thrown into a metal trash can.

“What the fuck was that??!!” Greg exclaimed.

Wide-eyed, Michelle responded, “Ohmygod, I don’t have any idea,”

So they pulled off to the side of the interstate (“which gives me the serious heebie-jeebies,” Michelle noted) and inspected the camper, Michelle cringing the whole time, certain someone would plow into them. Unable to find the cause of the noise, they climbed back in the cab of the truck, puzzled, but then Michelle looked in the rearview mirror.

“I see it!” she gasped.

And there it was.

Poor camper

See, just before the BANG!, Michelle and Greg saw a mower doing some tree trimming along the side of the interstate. And sure enough, it was just as they passed that the BANG! occurred. They’d kicked something up right as the Family had driven by and damaged the camper.

Well, seeing as Michelle is not one to enjoy hanging out by the side of an interstate, they pulled back into traffic while debating their next move.

“I didn’t know that they’d do anything about it,” Michelle said, “but I figured it was worth a try, so Greg pulled off at the rest area just up the road and I started making phone calls.

“First,” she reported, “I called the West Virginia Division of Highways and spoke with Lisa, who was SO AWESOME. I explained the situation and she told me precisely what to do. Trouble is, when I called the number she gave me, they gave me another number, and the people there gave me another number. It’s good to know that Miss
ouri state government and West Virginia state government operate in much the same manner. It’s also good that I’m so stubborn and persistent.”

“Well, maybe in this situation,” said Greg.

“Just what are you trying to say, smart guy?” asked Michelle.

“Oh, nothing. Nothing,” Greg responded.

“Uh-huh. That’s what I thought. Anyway,” she continued, “only once did I get mad enough at the person on the other end to let my meanness show.”

That conversation went something like this:

Operator:  [some unintelligible greeting]

Michelle:  [explained situation for third time]

Operator: [impatiently sighhhhhhing because she can’t believe she has to deal with these Missouri Morons] Well, ma’am, you need to contact YOUR insurance company.

Michelle:  No, I don’t believe I do. See, the State of West Virginia dented my camper, and I think I’ll be filing my claim with the State of West Virginia so the State of West Virginia can pay for it.

Operator: [taken aback] Um, okay, um, well, here’s the number for the people who are mowing out there.

“I’m sure she fully expected me to just roll over. Typical. Anyway, so finally,” said Michelle, “I got the number and called that place and lo, it was the RIGHT number, so that redeemed her in my eyes a little. And these guys were so nice about the whole thing. The equipment supervisor apologized that he was 20 minutes away but said he’d come up there, and he sure did, along with some fella with a personality uncannily similar to Larry the Cable Guy.

“Seriously, it was uncanny. And he had come along ‘just for the ride,’ which made me miss working for state park maintenance. That’s what we’d have done, too.

“Anyway, so they took our information and were so very nice about it, apologized all over themselves for the situation, and told us that it being Wednesday they’d probably get at least two more calls that week for the same thing. They said we’d hear from the claims company the next week, and we were on our way.”

So how does Michelle really feel about the situation?

“They caught me on a good day. I figure if that’s the worst thing to happen to us on this vacation, then it was a very, very good vacation.”